Friday, January 28, 2011
Human Rights Watch fears Egypt’s army may fire on protesters during rallies planned for Friday, the head of the New-York based group said Thursday.
“We are enormously fearful that the army would increase violence against protesters in Egypt, because the army there is more ruthless and much larger than the one in Tunisia,” HRW chief Kenneth Roth told Reuters at the World Economic Forum in this Swiss ski resort. “So far we have records of 1,000 people being arrested and the violence from the police was also against journalists and foreign media, not just Egyptian protesters, and the government did say that there will be zero tolerance to protests.”
“We have long opposed the authoritarian government in Egypt and we are pleased with the shift of tone taken by the U.S., and the key now is of other governments to express their concern about what’s happening,” Roth said.
Separately, HRW said Jordan should stop stifling dissent and allow citizens to voice their grievances freely.
It said that, despite permitting recent protests against inflation and unemployment, authorities in 2010 prosecuted dissidents and prohibited peaceful gatherings to protest state policies.
Jordan’s government has taken some steps to try to defuse the situation, including announcing a $125 million package in subsidies on basic goods and fuel and job creation.
HRW’s World Report 2011 said people were detained for insulting King Abdullah II and the security forces and conducting opposition political gatherings.
It cited the case of 24-year-old computer student Imad al-Din al-Ash, who was sentenced to two years imprisonment for defaming the king and calling soldiers “cowards.” Jordan then passed an August law putting all online expression under its penal code.
The Human Rights Watch report also described restrictions on expression and assembly in the run-up to the November 2010 parliamentary polls.
It said a radio station was denied permission to air a candidate debate while 35 students from the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition, were arrested on charges of campaigning to support an election boycott. – Reuters, AP